Or close enough, anyway.
Senior captain Aimee Smith returned to significant floor time on Saturday after missing two matches and being limited in Wednesday’s Division II sectional win over Mansfield Madison.
With its attack leader back at the net, Norwalk (16-8) had no trouble sweeping Sandusky for a third time this season in a Div. II sectional championship match at NHS on Saturday, 25-10, 25-14, 25-11.
It’s the 11th straight sectional title for Norwalk, which advances to a third meeting with Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division member — and former longtime Northern Ohio League rival — Bellevue (12-12), a five-game upset winner at Willard.
The Ladies in Blue and Lady Red will meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a district semifinal at Seneca East High School.
Claire Kelley had 13 kills (27-of-30) for Norwalk, while Smith was 24-of-30 with nine kills and two blocks.
“It’s definitely nice to have us back full go for the most part,” Norwalk coach Angie Kalizewski said. “We’re still struggling a little because it’s been a while — but overall it makes a huge difference when you can get back to being comfortable and have Aimee on the floor and control that pace and dominate that front line. It makes a big difference for us.”
Norwalk was never threatened in Game 1, racing out to a 20-9 lead before scoring five of the last six points in the 25-10 win.
Sandusky (4-19) kept it close for a small period of Game 2, as it was an 8-5 deficit until a Carly Bilton kill sparked six straight points for Norwalk. Leading 20-12, the hosts then scored five of the last seven points in a 25-14 win.
The third game played out similarly to Game 1, as Norwalk again threaten to keep the Blue Streaks under single digits. It was 22-9 when Norwalk closed with three of the last four points.
“I would say a B-plus or A-minus, just because that was one of our better consistent performances and we got back in a flow,” she said. “That’s just because I know how much is in there still. We’re getting closer to what we’re able to do — and that’s good, because it’s the right time to do that.”
Bilton had seven kills in the win, and Olivia Ward had six. Alaina Kelley was 84-of-84 setting with 33 assists, and Ann Davidson had 23 digs.
In the regular season, Norwalk won at Bellevue in three (25-6, 25-21, 25-21) on Sept. 19, while the Lady Red won at Norwalk in four on Oct. 12 (25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-18). That was one of the two matches played without Smith.
Also of note, the last time Norwalk didn’t reach a district semifinal was in 2006 — when it was Bellevue eliminating it in four games in a sectional championship.
“They are always scrappy, and we’re going to have to run a quick offense to keep it spread out and stay very aggressive,” Kalizewski said of a third match vs. the Lady Red. “Bellevue took one from us here a couple weeks ago.
“Yes, we weren’t full health — but you still have to play and that doesn’t matter,” she added. “They came in here and beat us, so that makes it interesting for us.”